#069 DFQ

As we have explored in previous thinking lessons, Western thought has been dominated by the Platonic ethic: the importance of The Truth. Eastern thought has been dominated by the Confucian ethic: the importance of The Relationship.

In the context of what we have been exploring about information viruses (or memes), about how ideas spread by word-of-mouth and about how cultures become infected by ideaviruses and memes we can identify the following Platonic and Confucian memes:

PTV – the Plato Truth Virus, and
RMC – the Relationship Meme of Confucius.

It is interesting to understand and appreciate the different thinking strategies that have evolved out of the Plato Truth Virus and the Relationship Meme of Confucius. In my experience with teaching thinking across cultures, when one better understands the thinking style of a different culture it makes it easier to appreciate the unique elements of one’s own.


PTV places the emphasis on having the truth, on being right. To demonstrate that one is right, in this tradition, it has turned out that the best way to do this is by showing others to be wrong. As a result of PTV we have seen the rise of dogmatism, intolerance, arrogance and persecution. This is not what Plato intended, of course, but is a consequence of PTV. Our own parliamentary behaviour, based on the Westminster system, is a regularly televised example of “I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong” in action.

RMC places the emphasis on the interaction, the interchange, the connection. This fits in with contemporary media-driven trends in psychology, sociology and philosophy where the accent is on understanding the relationships and defining the roles. Behaviour is governed less from external laws and more from internalised concepts of “the gentleman, the yuppie, the genXer, Mars/Venus, netiquette, greenies” and identification with brands and lifestyles.

In summary, the main difference between the Confucian ethic and the Platonic one is this:
– the Confucian ethic is more concerned with manners and appropriate behaviour. It doesn’t matter so much whether you are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ as long as you behave well.
– the Platonic ethic is concerned with ‘truth’ and whether you are in the ‘right’ or not. If you are ‘right’ then that can excuse your behaviour because ‘truth’ is on your side.

In today’s shrinking world there is an overlap of PTV and RMC as the cultural boundaries are becoming more fuzzy with globalisation. Yet the differences are still there and the recent US/China incident regarding the spy plane is a clear example of how the two cultures have different views of the situation.

It seemed that China felt the Americans did not behave well regarding their lost pilot and protocol required an apology. While, on the other hand, America felt they were in the ‘right’ so they did not need to apologise.

No doubt these things are more complicated than that but it does help to get an overview if you can.


DFQ #069:

Can you think of an example from your own experience of life that may highlight the difference between PTV and RMC?

Have your say here:

276 thoughts on “#069 DFQ

  1. I am currently working on a very simple thing, giving up the need to be right. It is HARD.

  2. When I was taking my Latin exam I was unlucky to choose the card which contained one question I could not find. But I was a diligent student, I attended all my Latin classes. My Latin instructor gave me “an excellent mark”, though she could give me “a four” according to the assessment table (PTV). So she apprecited my efforts. (RMC)

  3. A recent incident, March 2015: I was to lead a facilitation team to deliver a training. One member of the team did not consent to being part of the team preparations ahead of the training and took his presentation for granted. Subsequently, while trying to address the issue I noticed the belligerent attitude of the particular member. Since I consider him a friend I made a decision to assume a laid back position. He did the opposite and picked on another member of the team who he harassed and then walked out of the day’s meeting. In addressing this behavior I kept in mind that the issue had to do with a friend. However, it was also important to correct (there again, the issue of ‘rightness’) the behavior. This I had to do with full consciousness that I was working with friends.

  4. A recent example that illustrates the differences between PTV and RMC thinking strategies is a TED talk by Carol Dweck – The power of believing you can improve. Within the content Carol initially discusses the standard western education approach of a child either passing or failing an exam (PTV- right or wrong) and the damaging long term effects that believing you are a failure can have. She then goes on to provide examples of where schools introduced a grade of “Not Yet”, meaning that the child at that moment in time had not yet obtained the required knowledge to be able to successfully obtain a “pass”. This simple change that immediately places the emphasis on interaction, communication interchange and connection with the child to help them understand and believe that it is still possible to succeed, clearly aligns itself to the RMC thinking strategy. Carol also goes on to further develop this theme by providing coaching and grade marks for effort and improvement alongside the actual exam result. The end result is a hybrid scenario where both thinking strategies are able to co-exist. Worth watching.

  5. There is the relationship advice i heard from a friend — do you want to be right or happy. Seems like PTV VS RMC.

  6. There is a tendency in the work force that I am involved in, that people talk about one another, point the finger, creating conflict, and a hostile work environment. They want to be right, instead of building relationships through the simple form of communication, respect, and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

  7. In asia, “face”,respect, and relationship might be more important than “being right”. In china,” no” is never said.and at the same time,any answer but” yes” can mean “no”.

  8. Can you think of an example from your own experience of life that may highlight the difference between PTV and RMC?

    Have your say here:

    My former PTV was that knowledge was everything, do people got things because they know them.
    My RMC that I took actually from Napoleon is that people will defend more their interest than their own rights. So in each situation I do not care who is right or wrong, I prefer to understand the participants and their interest, and If it is possible take an advantage. Instead of analyze who is right or who is wrong, or I agree with them or disagree with them; I prefer to ask what is in it for me?

  9. My daughter and her husband are evangelical fundamentalists and creationists. To their horror, I am not! Consequently, regardless of the fact that I have good ethics and morals etc., I’m not accepted into their world or life. They have the PTV! They are RIGHT and anyone with a different or contrary opinion is WRONG.

    The dissonance displayed by them has reinforced my opinion of the hypocrisy of many fanatically religious doctrines and the people who follow this cult-like behavior.

    Where is their christian mantra, ‘love thy neighbor’ etc..?

    Lastly, it’s very frustrating because my 7 grandchildren whom I’m not allowed to visit are being raised by these parents.

  10. Relationship between father and children always fathers view are:-its my right to give my children batter behaviour while father think is not always wrough is always right.father seen children fort base the teaching of different people which imfacted their behaviour.

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